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Black History Month
2022 Honoree

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Patrice Woods

Patrice Woods

Director of K - 5 Mathematics and Science

Portland Public Schools

Where are you from?

Portland, Oregon  

Please describe an experience (or 2) that helped you discover/cultivate your interest in mathematics.

I had a very caring middle school mathematics teacher, the late Sterling Eltagonde, who saw promise in me and had me placed into the advanced mathematics class in grade 7. I excelled until I got to high school where I struggled a little with Geometry in Grade 9 and even more in Pre-Calculus in Grade 11. In Grade 10, Advanced Algebra, I had an amazing teacher (Mr.Lemon) who always took extra time with me to answer questions when I got frustrated with my progress. I ended up doing well in that course, but not so well the next year in Pre-Calculus. It was after my grade 10 course that I knew I wanted to be a high school mathematics teacher. As I continued my mathematics journey in high school, I did not know who or how to ask for help so quietly suffered through my junior Pre-Calculus course year and did not take mathematics my Senior year of high school. Heading off to college at the University of Washington, I took the placement test and scored well enough to place into Pre-Calculus in college. I chose to bypass Pre-Calc (because I had already taken it in high school) but did not do well in college Calculus the first, second, or third time. I chose to take a step back and take college algebra (still a credit-bearing college course) where I earned a 4.0, thereby renewing my faith in my love and abilities in mathematics. Five years later, as I transitioned into my career to become a teacher, I made last minute decision (literally the night before classes were to begin) to pursue the mathematics teaching certificate rather than the PE and Health certificate. Concerned about job security, I figured I would always be employable with a teaching certificate in a STEM field. I completed the certification in 2005 and began my teaching career as a grade 7 mathematics instructor. I have always wanted students to experience the fascination and excitement I have experienced in mathematics ever since I could remember. Becoming a teacher and now a leader of mathematics has poised me well to continue this dream.

What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) as a K-12 educator?

My proudest accomplishment is being part of a collaborative teaching team that supported a middle school cohort of students to improve from a proficiency rate of 19% to 41% over the course of one year, as measured by the Washington state Smarter Balanced Assessment. We were very intentional about collaboration throughout the whole school year and worked to implement best practices so students experienced success in learning mathematics. We also had a phenomenal instruction leader (our Principal, Eric “Zeek” Edmond) who cultivated a school/work community that was extremely conducive to support educators in shifting practice to improve outcomes for students.

What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) in regard(s) to your personal life?

My proudest accomplishment on a personal level is sustaining the ability to always persevere. I finish everything I start and do so with as high a degree of excellence as I can. It may not always be the best, but it will always be MY best. I have come through very tough times in my life, yet my children have never seen me give up. I am starting to see its manifestation in them.

Please share some words of wisdom/inspiration.

“To whom much is given, much is required.” Anything worth having is worth the blood, sweat, and tears you may shed along the journey to accomplish whatever task it is you are pursuing. Also, understand that there is a place and time for ALL things. Don’t be frustrated if/when things don’t happen in your time. Sometimes the delay may be your protection from an unforeseen catastrophe. Be thankful for your own challenges because it could be worse. You have the strength to endure. You must just believe.

Describe what you do in the classroom to inspire your students.

I currently work at the district level, however, what I did when I was in the classroom was ensure that a strong community was built, students had a choice in context as we explored new concepts and they were given the time they needed to demonstrate proficiency, even if it wasn’t immediate.